In our family, our dogs have been a part of some of our most important moments. They have been blessed with “S” names and this has proven to be lucky for these best friends.
I remember the day that we found precious Sadie. My family was visiting my grandparents’ home. There was a knock at the door and two teenage boys asked if we were missing a small peek-a-poo dog. She had been put in a bag and thrown from a moving car near the highway.
“No” my Dad insisted. It was not ours and we didn’t need a dog. But with only a bit of convincing, Sadie found her way into my father’s heart and into my parent’s station wagon.
The day before I started fifth grade, our tiny Sadie took her last breath and was buried in the backyard under the apple tree. The sadness from her loss was unbearable and my parents quickly found Sindy, the Silky Terrier, to fill the void. Sindy lived sixteen years and died just days before I spent Christmas in my first apartment.
My grandparents adored, Sophie. She was the miniature pincher that stole their hearts. During my grandpa’s last years, Sophie provided him so much joy despite his ailments. At one point, my sister’s then boyfriend hid the small dog in his coat and smuggled her into my grandfather’s hospital room. I can still see his smile when Sophie’s face peeked out between the coat’s buttons.
Next came, Simon, who provided my grandmother companionship as she grieved for my grandfather. She loved this dog like a child. Their bond was so tight we wondered if he was the reincarnation of my grandpa!
I look back and remember the first dog I got on my own–Schnitzel, the Schnauzer. The emptiness felt by his sudden death, and driving home from the vet’s with only his collar caused us to claim Stella just three days later.
She was a stubborn puppy and impossible to potty train. Her sharp puppy teeth seemed to be everywhere, nibbling fingers, clothing and furniture. Stella was mischievous and would race through the house with small treasures not intended for puppies; forcing us to chase her before she destroyed the dollar bills pulled from my purse. She began to slow down only once her age hit double digits and even then, it wasn’t uncommon for her to run through the house or search for ways to explore outside her fenced yard.
Stella was used to a quiet house and her world was turned upside down when we brought our son home from the hospital. She smelled the infant as if accepting her as her own and began to be protective in a comforting way. She barked when anyone got close to our house and she was the first one up the stairs when the baby cried. Stella was there as we watched our boy move from crawling, to walking, to running. She tolerated the toddler pulling her face in an attempt to make her smile and she enjoyed sleeping at the foot of his first “big boy” bed.
As our son grew and changed, so did Stella. The energetic dog began to slow and needed additional visits to the vet for arthritis. She now slept throughout the day and required assistance to get to her food and to go outside. When she tried to get up, she was forced to stand on three legs while her fourth leg adjusted to the upright position. More pain pills, more acupuncture and unconventional treatments all in the hopes of lengthening her life without pain.
We remembered losing our Schnauzer and knew that our son would be devastated by the loss of Stella. Stella’s death seemed inevitable but we hoped for one more birthday, one more Christmas, one more year with our dear friend. We came to the conclusion, that the sadness surrounding Stella’s eventual death would be lessened if we had a puppy in the house. At first, it felt like a betrayal…planning for her absence. But our strong belief that this would be best for our son, solidified the decision to bring home a second dog.
We researched and found the puppy that we wanted on-line. Her temporary name was, Angel, which seemed to fit her sweet face perfectly! The black over-sized nose and eyes could only be described as soulful; sealed the deal. She was meant to be ours. In order for her to join our family, she needed to be flown from Indiana to Seattle.
My typical naysayer reaction told me to run. Find a local puppy. Flying a dog across the country? That seemed absurd! The idea of anything or anyone that I loved flying in a plane was completely horrifying! I hate flying! I knew that I wasn’t physically boarding the plane, but it felt like I was a new mother putting my infant in harm’s way without any way of protecting her.
“D” had her own fear of dogs and planes. Her beloved childhood poodle had escaped the cargo area and had been permanently lost on a family trip. While this traumatic experience is a memory that can’t be forgotten, she pushed it aside and tried to ease my concerns.
The plans were made and several weeks later, the puppy was due to arrive.
With excitement and nerves running high, we got into the Subaru and drove to the airport to meet the newest member of the family. My heart raced as we turned off the freeway and followed the signs to the pick-up area. The planes looked like giant toys as they waited for flight, and I wondered which one had traveled with my new “fur girl.”
Before long, a large crate was brought to the waiting area of the cargo office. Instantly, we saw the familiar face staring through the crate. She was scared and timid and not quick to approach. But, with a little sweet talk she came closer. Instantly, a bond had formed and she attached to us immediately.
She arrived on the first day of summer and her golden fur shone like the sun. We continued the tradition of “S” names and renamed our new Labradoodle, Summer.
Many warned us, that bringing a puppy into our home could be too much for our geriatric terrier, but that has not been our experience. This puppy sibling has brought an energy that Stella simply couldn’t ignore.
The previously sleepy Stella now travels to parts of the yard that she had long since deserted. Just like the puppy, she gets out of their shared bed without hesitation to meet whoever is returning home. She barks with feistiness and conviction if she believes that Summer is getting a special treat that she also desires.
Their relationship is complicated and some days it feels as though spite fuels Stella’s rebound. But what is obvious is that she has a purpose now; a reason to be alert that she didn’t have before our sweet doodle joined us.
Summer has certainly lived up to her original name, since “Angel,” is a term that pilots use when talking about a rescue helicopter. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Summer elevated Stella’s spirits to an almost forgotten place.
Stella turned fourteen this July, the same day that my son turned eight. There is only an occasional hint of the fragile dog that was here prior to Summer’s arrival; and for that we are grateful.
It is surprising to me, that one of my greatest fears actually brought me one of my greatest gifts. I now see that flight can open so many possibilities.